Reminiscing over Lewis Hamilton’s seven Championships

After a stunning display of driving during a tricky Turkish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton secured his seventh World Driver’s Championship.

Lewis Hamilton’s win in Turkey put him level with Michael Schumacher on seven championships – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

He now equals the legendary Michael Schumacher for championship wins, with many believing he will beat the record in the next few years. When Michael retired at the end of 2006 (and equally at the end of 2012 after his stint at Mercedes) it appears only he believed that his records could be broken. But just 8 years on from when Schumacher last raced in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton has been able to match him. But how did Lewis win his championships? Let’s reminisce…

2008:

Lewis’ first championship came in just his second season in Formula One, following an incredible rookie campaign where he lost out on the championship to Kimi Raikkonen by just one point. Naturally for a rookie, you would assume the mistakes that cost him the 2007 title would affect him coming into the new season, but not so. He stormed to pole position at the Australian Grand Prix and subsequently took the chequered flag in a race that saw only 7 drivers finish – 6 after Rubens Barrichello was disqualified.

Hamilton’s quick start didn’t last long however,  as the next 4 races were dominated by Ferrari – Raikkonen and Felipe Massa winning alternately. Lewis achieved podium finishes in the Spanish and Turkish Grands Prix, but could not find a way past the prancing horses. Monaco followed, where Lewis took his first victory in the principality, despite a puncture sustained after making light contact with the barrier mid-race.

Lewis’ only retirement that season came due to a pit lane incident in Canada where he wiped both himself and Raikkonen out of the race, with Nico Rosberg needing a nose change.

Kimi Raikkonen’s wrecked Ferrari sits at the end of the pitlane after being wiped out by Hamilton – courtesy of Ferrari media

Perhaps Hamilton’s most famous victory that season (or even ever), came at Silverstone, where he charged through the lashing rain to lap the entire field bar 2nd and 3rd and finish a whopping one minute, eight seconds ahead of Nick Heidfeld in second. It was a race that saw many people give him the title “Rain Master”, and judging by his performance that day, he definitely deserved it.

Soon after came the controversy of Spa where Hamilton’s victory was stripped from him for leaving the track and gaining an advantage during a battle with Raikkonen. Kimi made slight contact with Lewis, causing the Brit to take to the run-off. Hamilton gave Kimi the position back, but received a 25 second time penalty after the race which saw him drop down to third; a decision that many saw as unfair.

Felipe Massa won the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix after controversy cost Hamilton the win – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Following redemption in China, Lewis went into the final race in Brazil leading the championship by 7 points over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. To win the championship Hamilton just needed to finish in 5th place or better, with Massa needing to win. Massa never really looked in doubt for the victory but after some rain started to fall in the closing laps, Hamilton lost fifth place to Sebastian Vettel. They battled hard and as Massa won the race the title looked to have slipped away. Until….”IS THAT GLOCK!?”.  Those imortalised words. The words that meant Lewis had won the championship. The words that stopped the premature celebrations in the Ferrari garage. Anybody who was watching that race (or have seen it since) will always remember the celebrations in the McLaren garage, the unfortunate incident between the Ferrari mechanic and the wall, and the crying Massa on top of the podium. It was a race, and a title battle, that has become the stuff of legends.

Hamilton’s last corner overtake cost a devastated felipe Massa the title in 2008 – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

It was a year in which Hamilton had made some mistakes, but had also had some incredible performances. His first title had gone down to the wire but in the end it would be difficult to say he didn’t deserve it. In just his second season in the sport, Lewis Hamilton was a world champion.

2014:

In the years between 2008 and 2014, Lewis Hamilton struggled to get a quick enough car beneath him to challenge for a title. Whilst he won a race in every single season, the Red Bull and the Brawn GP cars were just too quick week in week out to be able to chase his second drivers title.

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s dominance snuffed out Hamilton’s hopes of winning another championship in his McLaren days – courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

But that would soon change in 2014. Now with Mercedes, who Hamilton joined in 2013, Lewis partnered Nico Rosberg in a team that absolutely nailed the new engine regulations. The car was far superior to anyone else’s and that set up a tense Hamilton vs Rosberg title scrap.

Rosberg took first blood in Australia, winning by a comfortable margin over second placed debutant Kevin Magnussen. Lewis was forced to retire due to an engine issue. Hamilton then won the next four races, the most notable of which was Bahrain. Rosberg and Hamilton battled lap after lap but ultimately it was Lewis who came out on top. It remains to this day one of the most exciting battles for the lead of the modern era.

In Hungary, Hamilton got off to a poor start, sustaining front wing damage after colliding with the wall. Throughout the rest of the race, Hamilton had a great drive to finish 3rd, despite running in last place after the initial crash. Ricciardo won that race after Rosberg was punished by a late safety car.

Daniel Ricciardo took advantage of Mercedes’ struggles for the second time in 2014 in Hungary – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Tensions between the two started to fray in the following race in Belgium, as Rosberg made contact with Hamilton’s tire as the pair went into Les Combes. Lewis suffered a puncture and was later forced to retire from the race as a result. Again, it was Daniel Ricciardo who was there to sweep up and take the victory.

Hamilton then won the next five races, one of which was the Japanese Grand Prix, where we tragically saw the sport lose one of its most exciting young talents in Jules Bianchi.

Going into the Abu Dhabi finale, both Rosberg and Hamilton could still win the championship. In order to win, Lewis needed to finish in the top two, owing to the fact that the 2014 Abu Dhabi grand prix was the only race in history to offer double the usual number of points. Hamilton took the lead into the first corner and never looked like losing it. Whilst his teammate suffered car issues that saw him finish outside the points, Lewis went untroubled as he secured his second drivers title.

Hamilton’s Abu Dhabi victory in 2014 secured his second world title – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

It had been a year of dominance for Mercedes and Hamilton, with the team winning 16 of the 19 races and Lewis winning an incredible 11 of them. When Lewis wasn’t winning, he either finished on the podium or never finished at all, which in itself is very impressive. In a season that brought the world the Hamilton – Rosberg rivalry, it was first blood to Lewis.

2015:

2015 saw Mercedes continue to dominate the sport as Hamilton could not be matched by his teammate. Lewis took victory in three of the opening five rounds, finishing second in those he failed to win.

Then came Monaco, and a rare blunder in strategy for Mercedes saw Hamilton lose the lead and second place to Rosberg and Sebatian Vettel respectively. Mercedes decided it would be a good idea to pit Lewis whilst the virtual safety car was deployed following Verstappen’s heavy crash with the barrier at Sainte Devote. But the German team had misjudged Hamilton’s gap to his teammate, allowing Nico (who had stayed out) to pass him and take the lead of the race. It was a race-losing mistake as Lewis failed to regain the positions he had lost.

An ill-timed pit stop for Hamilton gave Nico Rosberg the win in Monaco in 2015 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

So far the championship battle had been tightly contested between Hamilton and Rosberg with the gap never being larger than 28 points. However, it was Lewis who came back from the summer break in better form, winning in both Spa and crucially Italy, where Rosberg was forced to retire. The gap between the pair was beginning to grow larger and larger.

Hamilton then took victory in Japan and Russia, the latter proving to be very costly for Rosberg after he was again forced to retire from the race. This allowed Lewis to go into the race in the USA able to wrap up the title by outscoring Vettel by nine points and Rosberg by two. Rosberg started on pole with Lewis alongside. However, it was the brit who led into turn one after he got off of the line better and was able to hang Rosberg out to dry at the first corner. Hamilton lost the lead to Ricciardo later on in the race but was able to gain it back during the pit stops. Lewis went on to win followed by Rosberg and then Vettel, after a race-costing error by his team mate.

Hamilton took advantage of a crucial Rosberg mistake to win his third title in the USA in 2015 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

With only three races to go, Hamilton could no longer be caught in the drivers championship and thus he was crowned champion. It would be Hamilton’s last victory of the season with Rosberg gaining momentum going into the following season.

The 2015 Formula One World Championship had by no means been a classic, but Lewis was able to capitalise on Rosberg’s unfortunate set of circumstances to take what turned out to be a dominant championship victory. Ferrari had just started to emerge as challengers, but nobody could match the consistency of both Hamilton and Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton was now a three-time world champion.

2017:

Following a challenging season in 2016, Hamilton went into 2017 with a fresh face in the other Mercedes. Reigning champion Nico Rosberg decided to leave the sport on a high following his one and only title win. It would be Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who would partner Lewis for the 2017 season. But could he prove a close match for Hamilton?

Nico Rosberg won his sole championship in 2016 following an intense finale in Abu Dhabi – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

In short: no.  Lewis did not have the championship all his own way, however. After a disappointing 2016, which saw them fail to improve on the promising results of 2015, it was Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari who would prove to be Hamilton’s closest competition. Vettel started the season strongly taking 3 victories and 3 second place finishes in the first 6 races, whilst Hamilton was only able to achieve 4 podium finishes in that time. By this time, Vettel led the championship by 25 points.

Tensions between Vettel and Hamilton were beginning to boil over however, as an incident under the safety car in Azerbaijan saw Lewis and Sebastian both fail to finish on the podium. Hamilton was leading when the safety car was called out with Vettel right behind him. Coming out of Turn 15, Vettel accelerated a lot more than Hamilton, subsequently causing the German to run into the back of him. Vettel wrongly believed that Lewis had brake-checked him and came alongside the Mercedes driver and drove into him. Sebastian was later given a ten second stop/go penalty for this incident. Whilst Vettel served his penalty, Hamilton’s head restraint started to come loose and he was forced to pit on safety grounds to fix it. Lewis eventually finished behind Sebastian with Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, despite dropping to the back of the field on Lap 1. It would be one of the most exciting races of 2017.

Despite a penalty for a moment of road rage, Vettel still managed to finish ahead of Hamilton in Baku in 2017 – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Silverstone has always been a special place for Lewis, and that proved to be so in 2017. Lewis himself had a comfortable lead throughout the entire race, but his luck really played out when both Ferraris suffered punctures. Vettel’s puncture came at the worst possible time for him, as he had to crawl almost the entire way around the track on 3 wheels. With Lewis winning the race and Sebastian finishing seventh, the gap in championship was down to just a single point in Vettel’s favour.

Lewis, however, is famous for coming alive in the second half of seasons and 2017 was no different. Victories in Belgium and Italy preceded a victory in the infamous 2017 Singapore Grand Prix. Hamilton started a lot lower down the order than expected, but rain before the race had started to cause some intrigue. The drivers arrived in their grid slots at the end of the formation lap and the lights started to turn on. As they turned out, Vettel moved over to the left-hand side of the track in order to cover off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Unbeknownst to Vettel however, his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, had made an even better start and was on the other side of Verstappen. Three cars tried to be in one place at the same time and all three crashed out of the race, allowing Hamilton to take the lead; something he would not go on to lose.

A dramatic collision off the line saw Vettel, Raikkonen and Max Verstappen retire from the race in Singapore in 2017 – Courtesy of LAT Images

Victory in Japan and then the USA saw Hamilton place one hand on the championship, especially after Vettel retired in Japan following a spark plug problem. Lewis went into the Mexican Grand Prix just needing to fail to be outscored by Vettel by 16 points to have an unattainable lead over the rest of the field. However, it would not be as simple as it appears. Following a long run off the line into the first corner, Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton were all jostling for the lead into Turn 1. Then, disaster struck, as contact with Verstappen caused Vettel to puncture Lewis’ rear tire as he himself sustained significant wing damage. Both came into the pits at the end of the first lap and the rest of the race became a reconnaissance mission. Vettel was able to climb his way back to fourth position, whilst Lewis could only finish P9. This, though, was enough to secure Lewis the championship.

Hamilton’s ninth-placed finish was enough to earn him his fourth world championship at the Mexican Grand Prix in 2017 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

The 2017 season gave birth to the Vettel-Hamilton rivalry; something that was much needed for the sport to be entertaining. Lewis’ new teammate Valtteri Bottas proved to be an excellent number two driver, but just couldn’t match Hamilton across the entire season and so, had it not been for Vettel and Ferrari, we would have been in for a very uninteresting season. It was a season in which the championship was neck and neck for large portions but, in the end, it was Lewis who was able to match Sebastian on 4 world drivers championship titles.

2018:

Many saw the 2018 season as the “race to five championships” as Hamilton and Vettel looked to renew their rivalry coming into the new campaign. As with the season prior, Ferrari looked to be on par with Hamilton and Mercedes, and it’s safe to say Bottas did not.

Vettel started the season strongly, taking victory in the first two rounds in Australia and Bahrain to immediately put him in the lead of the championship. Hamilton bounced back in Azerbaijan, though, after he capitalised on an unfortunate incident that gave teammate Bottas (who was winning at the time) a puncture and caused him to retire. It was believed that the puncture was caused by some debris that had not been removed following the safety car restart. The victory moved Hamilton into the lead of the championship by just four points over Vettel.

Race winner Hamilton consoles Valtteri Bottas after a penultimate lap puncture cost the Finn victory at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

The championship swung again in Austria, where both Hamilton and Bottas suffered from engine and gearbox troubles and were both forced to retire from the race. With Vettel finishing in 3rd, he retook the championship lead by a single point. This was then extended to eight points the following race as Vettel took the victory at Silverstone – Hamilton’s “back yard”.

It was ultimately Lewis who had the last laugh though as a very tricky race in Germany saw Vettel crash in changing conditions and Hamilton win. After an issue in Qualifying 1 prevented him from completing the rest of qualifying, Lewis started from 14th place on the grid. The race began and Vettel was comfortably leading the way, whilst Lewis slowly climbed up the order. Then the rain started  to fall. In the wet conditions, race leader Vettel locked up his brakes and got buried in the gravel trap. He was out. In order to retrieve Vettel’s stricken car, the stewards brought out a safety car and Bottas, who had inherited the race lead, was pitted.

The team, however, were not ready for him and the resulting chaos meant he was stationary for twenty seconds. A miscommunication with his engineer also saw Hamilton begin to come into the pits but change his mind, causing him to allegedly cross the white line. He then took the victory but was summoned to the stewards for the pit lane incident. Hamilton was not given a penalty, a decision which many saw as controversial. This was the turning point in the championship.

Hamilton claimed victory in a remarkable and dramatic German grand prix in 2018 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Lewis went on to win five of the next six races, whilst Vettel continued to struggle under the pressure. The gap between the pair had grown to 70 points heading into the Mexican Grand Prix and all Hamilton had to do to claim his 5th world drivers championship was fail to be outscored by Vettel by 21 points. The race itself was largely uneventful as Hamilton sought to secure his position (4th) and thereby the championship. Lewis now had an unattainable lead over second place Vettel and the championship was sealed with two races to go.

When you look back on the 2018 season, you can’t help but think that Vettel’s unforced error in Germany affected him greatly. From that point forward, Hamilton and Mercedes were streaks ahead of the rest and only Bottas had a chance at challenging him. For the second season in a row Bottas failed to do so. Lewis had had an incredibly consistent year, rarely finishing off of the podium. He was the deserved champion, and Juan Manuel Fangio’s number of titles had just been equaled.

For the second consecutive year, Hamilton claimed the championship in Mexico in 2018 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

2019:

It’s fair to say Mercedes hadn’t truly dominated the sport for a couple of seasons; they took it upon themselves to put that right. The opening five races were 1-2s for the German team as Hamilton won 3 and Bottas won 2. In order for the viewers to have a championship battle to watch, Bottas needed to step up his game from 2018. And to his credit, he did.

Despite Bottas’ uptake in form, it was still not quick enough to cause Lewis too many problems, with the Brit having won 7 of the 10 completed races heading into Germany. But Germany 2019 was an uncharacteristic race for Lewis to say the least. The race eventually started in heavy rain after several formation laps, then the chaos started.

The tricky conditions saw drivers were unable to keep the car in a straight line, spinning off and crashing constantly. On Lap 22, Leclerc was a victim of the slippery track and got beached into the gravel. Hamilton joined him that same lap, making contact with the wall, but unlike Leclerc was able to get out of the gravel trap. Lewis needed to pit but in doing so crossed the same white line he allegedly crossed at the same track the year prior.

Panic ensued in the Mercedes garage as they were not expecting Lewis and did not have the tries or a new front wing ready. To top it off, Lewis received a penalty for crossing the white line. Later on in the race, Hamilton spun at turn one; this time just avoiding the barriers. His teammate also spun there, but was not so lucky. In a race where Bottas could have capitalised on Hamilton’s errors, the Finn went home empty handed as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the victory. By this stage the gap in the championship was 41 points.

Max Verstappen won a phenomenal German Grand Prix after a disastrous day for Mercedes – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

After the summer break, Ferrari  – who had looked good on one lap pace all season – were finally able to take three victories in a row, the first being the tough weekend in Belgium which had seen the loss of rising star Anthoine Hubert in the F2 Feature Race. Ferrari’s pace wouldn’t last long though as Hamilton won in Russia, and then again in Mexico, sandwiching a Bottas victory in Japan. Going into the US Grand Prix, Bottas needed to outscore Lewis by 22 points to prevent him from taking the title. The weekend started well for the Finn as he took pole with Lewis down in fifth. Bottas went on to win the race, but with Lewis finishing second, the championship had been sealed.

Despite Bottas’ victory, Hamilton’s second placed finish sealed his sixth world title – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

With the Mercedes being as dominant as they were at the start of the season, the responsibility of having a championship battle rested solely on Bottas’ shoulders.  Whilst his performances were much improved, he could not match Lewis’ consistency and some impressive drives made branded him a deserved winner. Lewis Hamilton was by now a six time world champion. Roll on 2020!

2020:

How else can you describe 2020 other than “it was 2020”? A season that was hotly tipped to be incredible ground to a halt before it even got started in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After a considerable time away from the track, the season did eventually start with a new-look race calendar in Austria.

When the teams arrived in Austria, it was Mercedes yet again who dominated the field. The main challengers from prior seasons, Ferrari, had endured a woeful time developing the car and they had become the fifth and occasionally even sixth fastest team. The only team that could challenge Mercedes would be Red Bull, whose car was not fast enough to be a true title contender. Yet again, a title battle rested on Bottas’ shoulders.

Bottas started the season the stronger of the two Mercedes drivers, winning a crazy first race which saw just 11 finishers. Hamilton crossed the line in second place but was dropped down to fourth after he received a penalty for causing a collision with Alex Albon.

Bottas’ victory in the first race in Austria has been one of the few highlights of the season for the Finn – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Lewis bounced back in the following two races, however, taking victory in both the second race in Austria, and the Hungarian Grand Prix.

This saw Lewis enter the first race in Silverstone five points clear of Bottas in the championship standings. Hamilton started on pole at the British Grand Prix and looked comfortable in the lead for almost the entire race. However, in the dying laps, teammate Valtteri Bottas started complaining of vibrations on his tires. Soon after that, his front left tire became punctured and he dropped to the back of the pack as he made a pit stop. To add to the drama, on the final lap, Hamilton’s left front also blew out and he was forced to complete the race with only three inflated wheels, a la Lightning McQueen. Second placed Max Verstappen slowly closed the gap between him and Lewis, just falling short at the line as Lewis took an unprecedented victory.

Following a bizarre final few laps, Hamilton won the British Grand Prix this year – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Further victories in Spain and Belgium meant Lewis went into the Italian Grand Prix 47 points clear of Max Verstappen, who had overtaken Bottas for 2nd in the championship. But the Italian Grand Prix proved tricky for Hamilton, who was only able to finish seventh, despite starting on pole. A rare loss of concentration meant Lewis came into the pits after it had closed and subsequently picked up a ten second stop/go penalty. Bottas, whose only issue that race was that he didn’t feel like being quick, failed to capitalise on Lewis’ error. Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly went on to take the victory – a very popular winner.

A pit lane blunder from Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in Monza opened the door for a remarkable Pierre Gasly win – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Victories in four of the next five races meant Hamilton went into a slippery Turkish Grand Prix needing to avoid being outscored by Bottas by eight points to retain the title. Rain, paired with the resurfacing of the track, meant there was very little grip and we were in for a cracking grand prix. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll led from pole position and it looked as if we would have a new race winner.

However, after the first round of pit stops, Stroll dropped off in pace and Lewis was slowly starting to get quicker. As the track dried, Hamilton was one of the few drivers able to keep his car in a straight line and as his tires wore out, the wet weather intermediate tire became more like a very soft slick, allowing him to keep them in a good temperature window. The way he nursed the tires to the end of the race and took victory was extremely impressive. It was a race deserving of sealing his seventh title.

2020 has posed many challenges to the teams and drivers, but the ever-adaptable Lewis Hamilton showed us once again why he deserved to win the championship this season.

Hamilton will now be gunning for an eighth world championship and the title of the most successful driver in Formula One history – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

So, they are Lewis’ seven world championships to date. Throughout his career he has shown the world the sheer amount of talent he has. Yes, he has had the best car for almost all of his championships, but it is near impossible to win one without the best car, especially with the amount of races we see today. To suggest it is all the car is also naive. If it were all the car, how come Rosberg didn’t beat him more often? How come Bottas isn’t closer in pace? The truth is Hamilton is one of the sport’s all-time greatest drivers and thoroughly deserves to be a seven time world champion. Many believed Schumacher’s records would not be broken for a long time, but Hamilton has now matched him and could potentially beat him next year. He is one of the most successful drivers in the sport and still he rises!

The day Lewis Hamilton made his mark

Last weekend played host to the highly anticipated return of the Turkish Grand Prix. It was the first time since 2011 that F1 had raced at the fan favourite Istanbul Park circuit, and it definitely delivered on the promise.

An emotional Lewis Hamilton stands on the podium after winning his seventh world championship in Turkey – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Whilst the race itself was very exciting, typically the result would make plenty of people say it was boring as Lewis Hamilton, in undoubtedly one of the best drives of his career, nursed intermediates in rapidly drying conditions for 52 laps on his way to his 94th victory. In the process, he equaled Michael Schumacher by wrapping up his seventh championship.

Only Michael Schumacher had won seven world titles before Hamilton achieved it last weekend – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

By half way through, Hamilton seemed to have absolutely no chance of winning the race yet somehow he passed Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez with about 20 laps to go and pulled out a lead of over 30 seconds. He claimed his seventh championship and levelled with the great Michael Schumacher at the Istanbul Park circuit is very fitting, considering the day the F1 world sat up and paid attention to the kid from Stevenage.

27th August 2006. A 21 year old Lewis is competing in the GP2 Series (what we know now as Formula 2) on the undercard to the Turkish Grand Prix, and he is locked in an intense championship battle with Nelson Piquet, Jr. Hamilton had just come off the back of a defeat to Piquet; the Brazilian had in the previous round at Budapest scored maximum points and had just done the same the day before, taking fastest lap by half a second. Hamilton was at real risk of losing the championship lead with only two races to go at Monza.

Hamilton had already made a real impression in his racing career up until that point. He had an endless amount of achievements in karting, and had won the championship in Formula Renault UK. He completely and utterly dominated in the F3 Euro Series in 2005, winning 15 out of 20 races – however things could have been much different.

Seeing the GP2 Series start up for 2005 from the remnants of European Formula 3000, Hamilton asked the higher ups at McLaren if he could make the step up to the category for that year. But the Woking-based team held their ground believing it best to continue with their mindset of having Lewis spend his first year in a junior championship, learning the ropes to then go for a title charge the following year. After much deliberation, McLaren decided to sever ties with Hamilton and the Brit had to go hunting for sponsors for the last two major events of the 2004 F3 season.

Hamilton did manage to sort sponsorship and after somehow winning the Bahrain SuperPrix F3 race after qualifying last and making his way through in both the qualifying race and main race, he reunited with McLaren and stuck to F3 for the following year. After dominating the championship, he then got his wish to go to GP2 and immediately hit the ground running.

In only his third event, Hamilton took a double victory at the Nürburgring which, when you consider the second race of the weekend’s starting order is the reverse of the previous race’s top eight finishers, is very impressive. He then took a win at Monaco and another double victory at Silverstone. He had been making a habit of pulling off some audacious manoeuvres and charges through the field.

But the momentum before the Sunday of the Turkish Grand Prix had swung in favour of Piquet. As a result, Hamilton had clearly realised that drastic measures were in order. He asked for his mechanics at his GP2 team, ART Grand Prix, (responsible in recent years for taking the likes of Charles Leclerc and George Russell to championship success in the lower formulae) to trim his car’s aerodynamics down to the bare minimum. It was the sort of setup you typically would expect at Monza.

The team thought Lewis had gone nuts in desperation to cling on to some hope of keeping his championship fight alive, knowing that he would most likely spin. They were definitely right to have that fear.

At the start of the race, Hamilton held his starting position of P7 and tried to challenge Piquet who had managed to pass him at the start, nearly coming to blows at turn seven. Lap two however was when the inevitable happened as Lewis took to the kerb at turn four and spun, dropping to P19. Most people would have accepted that it was over at that point. Everyone, it seems, but Hamilton.

Hamilton had found that limit and set to work trying to salvage whatever result he could. Immediately he passed Ernesto Viso at turn seven, interlocking his front left with Viso’s rear right in the process and then getting another free position when Fairuz Fauzy hit trouble. This was only the beginning.

It didn’t matter where. The turn nine chicane before the long flat out straight and kink; doing the up and under at the series of slow speed corners ending the lap; the blind crest at turn one; the outside of turn three which turned to the inside of turn four – you name it, Hamilton passed there. He had found that sweet spot where he could drive an undoubtedly nervous car on the edge and in around ten laps from when he spun, Hamilton was now in the top five and could see his rival Piquet up the road.

You have to realise, this was a field full of drivers who would go on to be very successful. Along with Hamilton and Piquet who would both end up in F1 in the following years, you also had other F1-bound talent like Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi and Vitaly Petrov. Future sportscar drivers such as Nicolas Lapierre, Mike Conway and Gianmaria Bruni (who raced in F1 with Minardi in 2004), and even Lewis’ teammate Alexandre Prémat would go on to win last year’s Bathurst 1000 Supercars flagship race with Scott McLaughlin. These drivers were no slouches by any means.

With eight laps to go, Hamilton would pull off the divebomb to end all divebombs on Piquet into the hairpin near the end of the lap. Then the following lap, he tried to do the same to Timo Glock but he put up a good fight, which would not be entirely notable if it wasn’t for the fact that to this day, people are still out for Glock’s head as he supposedly couldn’t put up a good enough fight to deny Hamilton his first F1 championship in 2008.

Felipe Massa (left) was cruelly denied the championship in 2008 after Timo Glock, who raced in GP2 with Hamilton in 2006, was passed at the final corner by the Brit in Brazil – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Glock’s defending from turn 13 up until about turn four meant Piquet got back through, but Hamilton pulled off another spectacular out-braking move at turn 13 and got around the outside of Piquet, even nudging Glock going around turn 14. Still finding himself behind the German, he set himself up heading onto the penultimate lap to finally pull off an overtake and solidify his position and was set for a podium finish after being as low as P19!

But was he done there? Yeah, right! Hamilton had only two drivers ahead of him, race leader Andreas Zuber and second place Adam Carroll. He set the fastest lap of the race heading into the last lap and caught Carroll by four tenths of a second in the first sector alone. Heading into the flat out section on the last lap, he ducked into Carroll’s slipstream and sent one up the inside of a defenceless Northern-Irishman. Zuber rounded the last corner to win but just under three seconds later, Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to finish second.

The F1 press room had been exploding with media standing up in amazement, along with the entire F1 paddock. Lewis Hamilton was probably only one or two laps away from actually winning, This race was an early indicator of Lewis’s race craft, but more importantly and perhaps way underrated, his intelligence and confidence to adapt his driving to suit the setup. This would only be the tip of the iceberg as to what was to come for the Brit.

Comparisons between Hamilton and greats such as Schumacher and Ayrton Senna are now stronger than ever – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Hamilton would go on to wrap up the GP2 championship, and the rest, as we know, is history. For anyone who followed Hamilton throughout his junior career, his F1 success should come as no surprise. Fast forward to 14 years later, he’s now statistically speaking one of the greatest of all time, level on championships with the great Michael Schumacher. Yes he’s had the best car for a long time, but you don’t maintain this level of dominance for so long without being one of the best. Hamilton is well and truly up there with the likes of Senna and Schumacher, and deservedly so.

Feature Image Courtesy of F2 Media

2020 Turkish Grand Prix Preview

After a nine-year absence, Formula One will finally make its long-awaited return to Intercity Istanbul Park this weekend, as F1 gears up for the final four rounds of the championship.

With Mercedes having sealed a remarkable seventh-straight Constructors’ Championship in Imola last race, Lewis Hamilton has his sights set on a seventh drivers’ title, and could achieve such if he finishes within seven points of Bottas – so a P2 would seal the deal so long as the Finn does not take the fastest lap.

The Silver Arrows pair are now the only two drivers left who have a mathematical chance of winning the title, and Bottas’ efforts both for the team and his own championship gains have been praised by Hamilton. The championship leader has paid tribute to Bottas in the last week, saying that he “does not get the credit he deserves,” describing him as an “amazing team mate” both on and off the track.

Valtteri Bottas stands on the podium after winning the Russian Grand prix – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Overall, the pair have blown away the competition from the excellent Max Verstappen and Red Bull, at the track where, last time a Formula One race was held, Sebastian Vettel won for the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

This was, of course, a time of the last great period of dominance in the sport, but Mercedes have since far surpassed that, and Vettel’s new employers Ferrari, who last won this race in 2008 with Felipe Massa, have flattered to deceive in a hugely underwhelming 2020.

Felipe Massa was the last Ferrari driver to win in Turkey 12 years ago – Courtesy of Ferrari media

Living fairly vicariously on their past successes, the Italian team’s performance improvement, particularly with Charles Leclerc, has not gone unnoticed, but they are now a world away even from the 2018 car that almost carried Vettel to title victory.

However, perhaps even more enticing is the incredibly engaging battle for fourth in the drivers’ championship and third in the constructors’. Two-time podium finisher this year Daniel Ricciardo leads Leclerc by 10 points, with a further 22 points covering the six positions between fifth and tenth.

Daniel Ricciardo’s two impressive podiums have put him in fourth in the championship – Courtesy of Renault Media

Holding that tenth spot is Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, who sits just one point behind Alex Albon in the senior Red Bull team. The Thai-Brit will be more than aware that he has less than a handful of races left to impress Christian Horner and Helmut Marko enough to convince them to give him a drive in 2021. His unfortunate error of judgement the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix left him 118 points off Lewis Hamilton and 98 points behind team mate Verstappen.

This weekend very much has an end-of-season feel about it, as Mercedes look to build on their success, teams and drivers vie for best of the rest, and drivers set out to Istanbul with a point to prove for next year.

The 5.3 Kilometre Istanbul circuit has been one of the magnificent bi-products of the Coronavirus-hit season, and it is unlikely that we will see it on a Formula One calendar again after this year, so enjoy it!

Opinion: Hamilton’s advocacy and how he is changing Formula One for the better.

As Lewis Hamilton achieved his 90th career win at Mugello, the world sat and watched as their hero clambered out of the car, from what was one of the most action packed and extraordinary races in recent years. However, as the six-time world champion prepared for his podium interview, there were seven words printed on a shirt that shook Formula One to its very core. In principal, a simple message, in reality, a fissure that brought two worlds within the sport on a collision course. Those words read: “Arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor”.

The phrase “say her name”, the social media campaign slogan to maintain awareness of the emergency medical technician who was killed by plain-clothed police officers when they raided her home as part of an investigation into drug trading, and Taylor’s photo were shown on the back.

Hamilton has been fundamental in instigating a discourse in Formula One that is often ignored whether that be willfully or by negligence. Highlighting structural racism, a lack of inclusion and diversity in a sport that is made up of mostly straight, white men.

Hamilton has made no secret that Formula 1 has taken very few steps to improve diversity: “We have said things, and there’s been statements released, and we’ve made gestures such as kneeling,” he said. “But we’ve not changed anything, except for perhaps some of our awareness.”

Mugello was perhaps a step up in gears. While Mercedes have taken measures to race with their ‘Black Lives Matter’ livery, there has been very little change on face value. There has been poor organisation on getting a united message when taking the knee, a seemingly backward position when considering sports such as football, and cricket have been able to present a united message.

Mercedes unveiled their Black Lives Matter Livery in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police officers – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Hamilton’s support for Breonna Taylor shows that he is not afraid to use his platform to advocate for global change, within a sport that tries its best to stay apolitical.

And this should be celebrated, encouraged, and supported. We have become so used to seeing figures in Formula One constrained by responsibilities to sponsors, shareholders and other vested interests. One has become so used to the monotone grunts uttered by the likes of Kimi Raikkonen that resonate with statements such as: “I don’t care about the others” and “Leave me alone”. For once, we have a sporting icon who has agency in what he says, autonomy in what he does and power in what he can change.

For many, this is an uncomfortable position. They are not used to people ‘stepping outside’ of their bubbles. This is a position that many express to actors and musicians that try to contribute to a discussion. “Stick to what you know” (excuse the High School Musical pun) reduces people to repressed animals, only allowed to be what their public perception allows them to be.

Some argue that sport is an escapism that should not be corrupted by politics. However, I believe this position to be counterproductive as it creates spaces where people are scared to engage with challenging ideas and therefore propagates environments of intolerance and inequality.

The early days of Formula One were extremely white male dominated – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Let’s face it. Formula One is built from a foundation of privilege. Its early years were dominated by only the upper classes who could afford to compete. If you had the money then you were welcome and more times that not, it was white men that benefited from this system. We could go into WHY that is the case, but we would be onto a complete tangent explaining the social-historical consequences of slavery that trickled down into our economies, housing and education, that we would need a encyclopedia to get deep into it.

For decades, the status-quo stated the same and to this day it remains so that you are far more likely to succeed in motorsports if you come from a privileged background that allows you to afford an expensive lifestyle that involves purchasing karts, spare parts, hospitality and transport around Europe.

This had led to a socio-economic norm in which mainly white, privileged men rise to the top of the sport. And this brings me on to a point that makes me excited about the future.

WIDENING THE ARGUMENT

This is why I believe that W Series has been a success in attempting to change the very fabric of motorsports. Many criticised it saying that sport is inherently egalitarian and if you’re good enough, you will make it regardless of your race or gender.

The W Series was introduced at the end of 2018 for the 2019 season – Courtesy of W Series Media

However, I do not agree with this statement, as that suggests that everyone starts at a level playing field. Which they do not. For example, female and BAME individuals have very little in the way of representation at the top of the sport, a result of a historically narrow demographic participation. For them, it is exceedingly difficult to see themselves participate in a sport that does not reflect the diversity of modern society, even harder to be accepted. Therefore, not only is it less likely for a women to be offered or encouraged into motorsport, but you will inevitably be up against a cohort of people who will ‘other’ you based on your gender. Now, I’m not saying all men discriminate against women, but what I am saying is that in any environment where a male dominated culture permeates, anything feminine will inevitably be targeted as weak.

I go back to an example at the theatre I work at. As a director I would ask the young people in my company why they are not engaged with theatre. Their response was two-fold. One was that they thought it was too expensive, another that they didn’t think theatre represented them. The programming was not diverse enough and catered only to an old, classist audience. Therefore, getting into theatre for working class students seemed out of reach. Sound familiar?

BACK TO THE MATTER AT HAND

This is why I admire Hamilton’s actions so much. He could sit back and enjoy his success. Race cars. Create clothing brands. Record music. All the while blissfully ignoring the injustices of the world.

Hamilton has been a heroic advocate for equality – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

However, he has shown time and time again that he believes in things larger than himself. Standing up for those without a voice and calling out the injustices in the world. This is what I believe he will be his lasting legacy. Not only to beak records, but also to create lasting change with the platform that he has.

Let’s not forget this is the same driver that in his early career had to endure spectators mocking him in disgusting black-face to the tune of horrendous monkey chants.

Now, while sections of the fans and media do not like Hamilton’s political advocacy, you have to consider why that is the case?

Some say that the Breonna Taylor case is a political one which I also refute. The killing of an innocent black woman by police officers is an injustice, clear and simple. Ignoring it by trying to make it a partisan issue, or by associating it to the ‘Black Lives Movement’ is willfully ignorant. I believe it is a human rights issue that transcends partisan squabbles. Anyone and everyone should be horrified by any killing of an innocent person, and I would hope that if someone you loved was shot in bed by police, you would be equally as enraged that justice had not been enacted.

Some argue that Formula One is escapism, and to some extent it is.  However, maybe we should argue that it shouldn’t be.

If you go somewhere to hide from challenging questions about identity and society, perhaps the reason you go there is because that very place represents a past that is ‘safe’. Formula One is sometimes reluctant to change and relies on its history and practices to inform how it approaches the future.

This brings me back to my earlier statement: “Creating spaces where people are scared to engage with challenging ideas propagates environments of intolerance and inequality.”

Those trying to censor or silence him. I ask you to consider the aesthetics of what that looks like. If you are a white, male effectively challenging a black man’s experience of racism. If you are stopping the ability of a black man to speak out. You or I cannot know what it is like to live in a society where this happens. Therefore we are not in a position to tell someone of colour that their experiences is irrelevant. Yes your opinion matters, but racism and inequality is not something that hegemony experience. I certainly have never been discriminated from a job based on the colour of my skin. Therefore, it is only right that we listen, empathise, try to understand and come up with solutions together.

I believe Scott Mitchell summed it up perfectly by saying that the perceived: “Controversy is unfair given any problem that arises from such a pursuit is the fault of the person it irritates, not Hamilton.

Especially as it appears some people are more concerned with Hamilton wearing this T-shirt than they are the reason he is wearing it in the first place.”

THE FUTURE

Hamilton has already put his money where his mouth is to change this. Setting up the ‘Hamilton Commission’, a task-force dedicated to improving diversity and opportunity in the sport.

“I have been working with the Royal Academy of Engineering to create The Hamilton Commission, a research partnership dedicated to exploring how motorsport can be used as a vehicle to engage more young people from black backgrounds with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and, ultimately, employ them on our teams or in other engineering sectors,” said Hamilton.

“It will explore areas including lack of role models and career services at schools, opportunities to engage more black youth with STEM extracurriculars, barriers that prevent people from more diverse backgrounds joining the racing industry, and problematic hiring practices that result in fewer black graduates entering engineering professions.”

Hamilton paid a visit to Mercedes EQ Formula E Team last year – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Not only that, but he has created his own Extreme E team (X-44) which has already dedicated a progressive approach to driver-line-ups in which one male and one female driver will compete. Alongside this, while advocating both climate change and renewable energy, Hamilton has proved that it is possible to be a racing driver and a politically minded thinker.

This is not some revolutionary doctrine. It is a movement based on fairness, kindness, empathy and opportunity.

That is why I am proud of what Lewis Hamilton is doing and will continue to champion his efforts of advocacy and diversity.

Interlagos – Could it be the End?

Image courtesy of Haas F1 Team

To the heartbreak of most it is looking like that the track Autódromo José Carlos Pace or Sao Paulo/Interlagos may have seen its last Formula 1 race. Chase Carey in one of his final moves as Chief Executive of the sport before stepping aside for Stefano Domenicali looks like to have penned a deal with Rio Motorsports LLC at a new location completely from the historic circuit having held races since 1972. Brazilian President Bolsonaro has supported the switch saying that Interlagos is no longer financially viable but the location of choice is causing uproar as it is Rio’s last forested area, and environmentalists are against it, but if it gets approval by the State Environmental Control Commission Interlagos could be off the calendar and Rio will be on the provisional 2021 schedule . Hamilton has also spoken about his disinterest in the venue not only because he likes Interlagos but of the effect of the forest. Chase Carey’s final move as CEO could see one of the locations I personally look forward to each year being taken off the calendar.

Here’s a few races in my lifetime, three of the best?

Senna, The dream happens – 1991

Ayrton Senna is renowned as one of the best in the Sports history, and did so much for his country and from his debut career in 1984 Brazil was always a bogey track, 6 years and 4 retirements, with a best place of second in 1990. 1991 was the year for him albeit it didn’t come easy, lights to flag victory for the great. He was clear within the early laps but Mansell begun to close before pitstop trouble for Brit managed to give Ayrton breathing space. There were more battles with Mansell and Patrese later on though as the gearbox gremlins began for them all it was survival, Senna was hit with it first losing fourth gear. Mansell fell first though on lap 61 spinning and unable to get going again, whilst Senna battled on losing further gears. Patrese closed further only 2.9 behind from nearly half a minute, Senna stayed in sixth losing time but he held on. When the Brazilian saw the chequered flag at the 71st lap he couldn’t stop screaming, much louder than a Frenchman in 2019 out dragging Lewis Hamilton! He finally managed to win his home event, superstition? 7th time lucky? The struggle of him doing so caused him to slow and get into the medical car to drive him to the podium where he struggled to lift the trophy, he put 110% into that display that day.

Raikkonen Wins, or does he?! – 2003

The 2003 Grand Prix was held in horrid conditions, and began behind the safety car. There were several laps behind it before the track went green and fan favourite Barrichello lost the lead instantly to the disgust of home fans to Coulthard. The track began to dry except for turn 3, which had a water stream across it, which over the period of the race became a car park as 6 cars aqua planed, including Michael Schumacher! It was his first time he failed to finish since his home GP in 2001. Jenson Button in the BAR was the heaviest collision out of the six but all unharmed. Coulthard lead on worn tyres and home favourite Barrichello took the lead to the crowd’s joy on lap 45, but Rubens was to retire, a ninth time in a row! He ran out of fuel and DC retook the lead two laps later. Raikkonen and Fisichella were battling behind him as he pit on lap 52. Kimi then in his younger years with tyre wear and pressure caused by Fisichella made a mistake lost the lead on lap 54 letting the Jordan by. Webber lost control of his car behind them and hit the wall across climb of the hill on front straight, tyres strewn across the track. The safety car was deployed but the communication didn’t get across to Alonso in the Renault who hit a tyre at 170mph, and wall now known to reach 35G. With the damage to track and over 75% completion done the race was ended early. Fisichella was lucky his car was on fire but timekeepers deemed Raikkonen as the winner on countback! Albeit this was reviwed ahead of San Marino and the final result was handed to the Jordan driver of Fisichella.

2008 – Is that Glock?

Hamilton had memories of 2007 of which trouble in the race stopped him becoming a rookie champion, and 2008 was between himself and another Brazilian Felipe Massa, that country has some great talents throughout the years. Weather once more played its part this year! Massa got off well, but all Hamilton needed to do was finish P5 or higher and sat P4 from the start. In Coulthard’s final race of his career it ended at turn 2 due to collision, he was given permission to have Red Bull’s Wings for Life Charity across his car, this brought the safety car out and the track begun to dry under this, in which Fisichella pit early for tyres. This was a smart play which got him up the order which briefly put Massa in title winning position before Hamilton first pit stops happened. Massa was truly engaged he was setting fastest lap after fastest lap as the track dried further but clouds in the distance didn’t look promising. A noteable pit stop happened half distance, lap 36 by Toyota as Glock pitted for fuel and tyres until the end, and two laps later Massa pitted the first of the Championship runners albeit he was to pit again. Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen pit a further 2 laps later on laps 40-42. Hamilton was comfortably in position to win the Championship being in the top three with Massa in the lead. Vettel having an impressive second half of the season since his first win at Monza pitting on lap 51 was closing in Hamilton on fresher rubber but can afford to give him the position. Rain begun to fall 12 laps later with Vettel still over the Mclaren’s rear wing, he just can’t get by. Everyone followed Heidfield’s lead bar Glock as he stayed out as he had the fuel from previous stop to which dropped Hamilton to fifth, now in danger with Vettel on his rear wing. The Brit made an error and Vettel got by, so he now was sixth! Massa on lap 69 was in Championship winning position, but the rain begun to fall heavier. Massa took the victory and the crowd and the Ferrari crew go wild but then cameras pan to Hamilton as we see Glock go slowly due to car cannot cope as Hamilton going down the inside Juncao and the famous Brundle words ‘IS THAT GLOCK?!’ Hamilton then crosses the line in P5 and Mclaren then go crazy with Ferrari stunned, Massa was Champion for around 20 seconds.

What is your favourite Brazilian Grand Prix? Other noteable mentions for 2012 and 2019.

The first for when Vettel recovers from spin on lap 1 to win his third Championship, and it looked like Schumacher let him by handing over the baton to the new generation of drivers. Button took his final victory of the sport, but the main memory is Alonso’s face post race, a meme created to this day.

The second for which could be the final ever at the track where Verstappen takes victory and Gasly second, the first 1+2 for Honda powered cars since Adelaide 1991. No rain but three teams battled for victory in the hybrid era, Sainz took his first podium of his career.

The 2020 calendar saw a possible new track with Vietnam, so this could be the 2021 new track along with the introduction of Vietnam and return of Zandvoort, other series are beginning to reveal their plans for next year so this could be the beginning.

 

PREVIEW: 2020 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom

On the back end of yet another exhilarating Formula One Grand Prix in Italy, we head to Sochi and round 10 of the 2020 F1 season in Russia. Mugello provided the fans with a gripping watch which saw Red Flags up to the third in the space of two races. Alex Albon achieved his first podium for the Red Bull Racing team and Racing Point left wondering if they will be able to get the upgrades on the car in time for Sochi after Lance Strolls off at Arrabiata corner, leaving the car with heavy terminal damage.

Being announced alongside Mugello on the 10th of July for this unprecedented season, Sochi will allow the teams to have a more familiar approach to the race with the knowledge that is shared from the past 6 races here. Mercedes’ dominance has earned them a win in every one of them and the team certainly look set to do the same this year. Valtteri Bottas also took his first win at the Autodrom in 2017 for the Silver Arrows and will want to turn the tides on his championship fight and take it to Lewis Hamilton in the hopes of reducing the gap of 55 points.

Bottas took his first win for Mercedes in Russia three years ago – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Knowing how the season has panned out so far, it is safe to say that we could be in for another treat of a Grand Prix. The Renaults have proven their pace with near podium finishes and they now lie 5th in the championship, honing in on both the Racing Points and McLarens who sit fourth and third. Daniel Riccardo is still in high hopes of sealing a bet with Cyril Abiteboul which amusingly details that if he was to gain a podium before the end of the season, the Renaults chief principle will be getting a Tattoo of Riccardo’s choice.

The Streaming superstars of Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc and George Russell have all surprised us this season in regards to performance and results. The remarkable efforts of Russell have gotten the Williams into Q2 five times this season and the famous ‘Last Lap Lando’ attacks have provided plenty of late drama. Will we see these drivers taking the headlines if any of them at the Autodrome this weekend?

George Russell has impressed again in 2020 for Williams – Courtesy of Williams media

After Lance Strolls suspected puncture incident at Mugello and the car hitting the wall causing excessive damage, Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer suggested the upgrade that was on the car had a couple to three-tenths improvement. Due to the damage of Lance Stroll’s car, by the race weekend, Lance may still only be the one with the upgrade. And with Russia being a tight circuit that is difficult for overtaking, the overall pace of a car is vital for the higher positions and to optimise strategy.

With the news of reshuffling and the potential of F2 drivers making the jump to Formula One next year, this could cause worry for some of the drivers. Which makes this race an important statement to keep them in the team. Pierre Gasly – following the frustration of ending his Tuscan Grand Prix no more than two corners in after winning previous – will want to return to his exceptional ways that may prow the eyes of Red Bull for a potential step-up or other teams. However, with the current situation at Red Bull Albon may have found the confidence back that he was looking for after his P3 finish last time out.

Alex Albon’s podium in Mugello was his first in F1 – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

The set tyre choices for the 2020 season being predominantly soft tyres may see teams opt for a more aggressive strategy for the 5.8 km circuit, and maybe even a two-stop strategy with the evident tyre degradation in the new Pirelli tyres. And with the weather set to be clear it should be a straight forward strategy come race day for the teams.

A healthy gap to the rest of the field sees Mercedes lead by an enormous 152 points in the constructors’ standings, which will be difficult to close for Red Bull especially with the trend of this season let alone the track itself. Taking a look down the field there is a close battle with Ferrari just 17 points shy of Renault and the Alpha Tauri a further 13 behind.

Hamilton is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 wins this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

The Crew from Netflix will be on Mercedes for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix with the hopes to capture a moment in history no one would have called, as the reigning Champion Lewis Hamilton is tipped to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Italian GP qualifying: Hamilton takes 94th career pole as Sainz impresses

Lewis Hamilton took his 94th career pole and his seventh at Monza on Saturday afternoon after pipping Bottas in a very close fight. The English driver took pole by 0.069 seconds after putting in a mega lap in the second stint of Q3. He now has 68 poles with Mercedes alone which equals Michael Schumacher’s all-time career poles.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Saturday – LAT Images

Carlos Sainz put in the biggest performance in qualifying after driving a mega lap to put his McLaren in third place on the grid. His luck seems to have at least turned around for qualifying, and whether it will turn around for the race is yet to be seen. His teammate Lando Norris put the other McLaren on the third row in sixth after a very good effort.

Carlos Sainz, McLaren MCL35

In what was an unusual happening, Max Verstappen failed to make it to the second row on a Saturday after what seems to be an effect of FIA’s decision of not using higher engine modes for qualifying. The Dutchman will be starting on the third row in fifth and will have some work to do for a podium place unlike the last few races where it was a very straightforward affair. His teammate Alex Albon is set to start from ninth position after yet another underwhelming qualifying.

Sergio Perez put in another stellar qualifying performance after putting himself on the second row alongside Carlos Sainz in fourth. The Mexican will be keen to make great use of the track position to challenge for the podium considering how well the Racing Point handles itself around Monza and the threat of Max Verstappen is not at its highest around this place. His teammate Lance Stroll will be lining up alongside Daniel Ricciardo on the fourth row in eighth place. Pierre Gasly made it to Q3 yet again continuing his impressive form but failed to make any inroads into the session and will have to settle for 10th place on the grid.

It was a Q3 without the drama of last year where eight of ten cars failed to make it to the starting line before the flag because all the teams decided to come out and register lap times with more than 5 minutes to go in the session. It was however not a session without drama as Q1 was quite a hassle after everyone was tripping over each other to put in a quick lap and take advantage of the slipstream.

It all started off when the Alfa Romeo cars tried to overtake everyone in front of them on the outlap which ended up in compromising everybody’s laps. At the front of it all, Esteban Ocon was racing Kimi Raikkonen towards the first chicane, trying to cover the inside while George Russell had to try and stay away from there to not compromise his own lap. This turned into a chain reaction when Vettel had his lap compromised as well thanks to the events unfolding infront of him. In the frantic second stint of Q1, both the Williams, Vettel in the Ferrari, Giovinazzi in Alfa Romeo and Grosjean in the Haas were all knocked out, with some of them quite vocal on the team radio expressing their anguish at how things went about.

GP ITALIA F1/2020 – VENERDÌ 04/09/2020
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Q2 did not serve up any similar sort of drama apart from the continuation of woes of the home team Ferrari. The Tifosi would not be minding not being in the grandstands after yet another disastrous Saturday saw them qualify with Leclerc in 13th and Vettel in 17th. An exhausted Leclerc was out on the radio at the end of Q2 saying this was the best he could do and it was evident with the kind of lap he put in. The pace just doesn’t seem to be there for the Italy-based team and they will not have much to hope for the race tomorrow.

Esteban Ocon has been called to the stewards for his Q1 antics where he blocked Raikkonen and the rest and it has to be seen whether there will be any action taken. As of now he lines up 12th on the grid alongside Danil Kvyat in the Alpha Tauri in 11th.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW43.
Italian Grand Prix, Saturday 5th September 2020. Monza Italy.

George Russell will not be making it into Q2 after a good run following the drama in Q1 and will be lining up on the last row in 19th next to his teammate Nicolas Latifi in 20th in what will be the last race as team principal for Claire Williams. Both the Haas cars will line up with Magnussen in 15th and Grosjean in 16th.

With Mercedes clear of the field, it is very clear who will have the biggest advantage in terms of winning the race but the fight for podium is set to be interesting considering McLaren and Racing Point seem to have a better car compared to Red Bull Honda at least in qualifying. The midfield battle is set to be intriguing as well considering Renault will start further behind compared to their expected positions, which should give us an exciting Grand Prix to look forward to.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of  Steve Etherington/Mercedes Media

Super Max again? Spanish Grand Prix Preview

At the beginning of 2020, the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona was set to be round number six of the 71st world championship season in the sport’s history. Now, 96 days after it was supposed to be held, it will still be round six.

Never, after pre-season testing in February at the same track, did anyone imagine that it would take this long for the F1 circus to return to Cataluña, or that the F1 season would be as altered and impacted as it has been – but F1 belatedly returns for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Haas’ Romain Grosjean at pre-season testing in Barcelona

The 4.6 kilometre circuit has seen 29 Formula One races, and only 10 times has the pole-sitter failed to win the race. Therefore, you would get the feeling that qualifying would be pretty important this weekend.

Cue Mercedes whose five pole positions from the first five races have once again symbolised a dominant car. Lewis Hamilton has established a 30-point lead in the world championship, but the champions did not have it their own way last time out at the 70th anniversary Grand Prix in Silverstone.

Red Bull’s Dutch sensation Max Verstappen produced a clinic in tyre conservation and consistency as he steered his car to victory following an exceptional strategy by the Red Bull team.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 09: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing walks with Second placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP with their trophies after the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone on August 09, 2020 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Will Oliver/Pool via Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // AP-24VYR9KC11W11 // Usage for editorial use only //

It is also a circuit that will be naturally tough on the tyres. Mercedes’ strife over the two weekends in Northamptonshire saw Hamilton take a narrow win after a last-lap puncture. A puncture for Bottas saw him fail to score points in the British Grand Prix, and he lost the win and second place from pole position. He knows he needs to string together some strong weekends in order to propel himself back into championship contention.

2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

It all came on a day Verstappen claimed he would not have enough to challenge the Silver Arrows, and we now arrive at a circuit that where the team is expected to flourish. Complete with tricky, high speed corners and few straights, Red Bull will know that Spain is a wonderful opportunity to take their second consecutive victory, and the team’s fourth there since 2010.

A special mention also goes to Carlos Sainz, who enters his sixth home Grand Prix. He looks to become the second Spanish race winner in Barcelona after Fernando Alonso’s two victories – the second of which was in 2013 for Ferrari. Sainz did not manage any points in Silverstone due to puncture and pit-stop dramas and will be looking for a bounce-back this weekend.

BARCELLONA ( SPAGNA ) 12/05/2013
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO X FERRARI

But it is all eyes on Red Bull and Super Max, as they look to once again take the fight to Mercedes at the front at the circuit where Verstappen took his first ever victory in 2016.

 

Feature Image courtesy of Red Bull content Pool

Hungarian Grand Prix – Hammer time

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, dominated the wet-dry conditions Hungarian Grand Prix.  The British champion, claimed the pole on Saturday’s qualifying session and had an easy Sunday afternoon.

The drama in Hungary started early, more specifically while the drivers were driving to the grid, Max Verstappen crashed into the barriers at turn 12, the track was wet and the drivers were on intermediate tyres. Red Bull’s mechanics urgently repaired Max’s car and that allowed him to start the race from the seventh position.

At the start, Valtteri Bottas moved before lights out and that was the reason why he stopped immediately, for a few seconds, which cost him position and allowed Stroll to jump ahead, behind  Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen and Vettel had a good start, Max placed third and Vettel fourth.

The track was drying off, on the third lap Bottas and Leclerc pitted for slicks, the Finn rejoined on mediums whilst Charles swapped to softs. A risky move by Ferrari, which didn’t pay off, Leclerc was struggling a lot with the soft tyres, he was complaining to his team on the team-radio. On the following lap, Hamilton, Stroll and Vettel pitted for mediums.

Haas, started both Magnussen and Grosjean on slicks. Their strategy was smart and after the chaotic period with the pit stops, Kevin was third and Romain fourth.  The happiness in Haas’ garage didn’t last long, Stroll passed both Haas’ drivers and moved up to the third place.

Leclerc, couldn’t follow the pace of the rest of the drivers, Albon was right behind Charle’s car on lap 14 and was trying to pass Ferrari and move up to the seventh position. Alex requested extra power from Red Bull and overtook Charles on lap 18.

It was obvious that Ferrari had to protect Leclerc. They called him into the pits for the hard tyres on lap 21 and returned on the track on the 15th position.

More rain was expected during the race, teams started calling their drivers into the pits for fresher tyres, some drops appeared on the track but that was not enough to affect the strategy of the teams.

Mercedes went for the undercut to give the opportunity to Bottas to overtake Stroll for the third place. Lance Stroll pitted a couple of laps later and rejoined behind the Mercedes.

Bottas was closing to Verstappen for the second place, on lap 50 the Finn pitted again for the hard tyres. He rejoined behind Verstappen but he had fresher tyres. Bottas was pushing until the end of the race, he managed to reduce the gap but he didn’t get the chance to make a move on Max for the second place.

Lewis Hamilton pitted for softs in order to secure the fastest lap of the race and score the extra point. Lewis was not challenged at all during the race and secured an easy victory, the second one this season and 86th in total.

 

F1 Winter Testing: Round-Up

Formula 1 Pre-Season testing got underway in Barcelona this morning with a healthy mix of old and new faces racking up the laps. Rookies Lando Norris and Alex Albon for McLaren and Toro Rosso were first out on track.

Albon had the marshals on their toes after causing the first red-flag of the session, one minute after lights went green. Albon’s Toro Rosso was sat in the gravel facing the wrong way after having lost it upon exiting Turn four, and after a 20-minute recovery from the marshals, we got back into the session.

Both Ferrari and Mercedes were keen to begin testing the harder tyres this morning, running the C1, starting at a slightly slower pace than the previous day. After Bottas’s morning test yesterday, it was the turn of Hamilton to set an early alarm, and by 8:20am he had set the first time of the day at 1:32s.

Ferrari’s new driver Charles Leclerc got in the seat for the first time, initially taking a steady approach to handling his new car by setting a 1:42. He picked up the pace pretty quickly after that though, going from the bottom to the top of the table by setting a more-than-respectable 1:19 and showing the world he can match the pace of his teammate Sebastian Vettel. Vettel has already gone on record in considering Leclerc a ‘full rival … He got the seat for a reason and I’ve got to take him very seriously’. With a personal best of 1:18.2 this morning, it’s difficult to view Leclerc in any other way.

After Verstappen’s impressive performance yesterday, Red Bull’s number two driver Pierre Gasly took to the wheel for the first time at just after 8:30am, sharing the track with Alfa Romeo’s number two, Antonio Giovinazzi. Gasly put in a steady first lap on C3 tyres with a 1:37.5, before picking up the pace and putting in a 1:22, and a 1:21 shortly after. Giovinazzi puts in a 1:24 and continues to improve, achieving a 1:20 after 22 laps.

Like Hamilton, Ricciardo was also back in the driver’s seat this morning following yesterday’s afternoon session. Ricciardo’s Renault matched the pace of Red Bull and Gasly lap after lap, as both cars achieved a respectable 1:21s.

Meanwhile, it looked to be yet another slow start for Racing Point this morning after yesterday’s arguably disappointing session. The team managed to rack up a meagre 30 test laps across the whole day. Performance Engineering Director Tom McCullough summarised the day; ‘We had some teething problems, which caused us some downtime across the day, and a small oil leak, but nothing overly concerning’.

McCullough explained the teams aim for today’s session, focusing on aero data collection and giving Lance Stroll an opportunity to experience his new car, however by 8:50am, Stroll had only managed two installation laps. By 9:05am, Stroll had achieved his first timed lap, managing a 1:29 on C3 tyres. His pace improved quite quickly with a 1:21.6, coming second on the timing sheets over Hamilton’s 1:24.6. Stroll surpassed his teammates efforts yesterday, completing 45 laps before lunchtime.

Perhaps a little dubious to appear on track too early this morning, Kevin Magnussen and Haas finally ventured out to do an installation lap on intermediate tyres, before returning to the pits. Magnussen was back on track after 35 minutes in the garage, putting in his first flying lap of 1:23.4. He continued to build on this by following it with a 1:21.9, and a 1:21.6 moving ahead of Albon’s Toro Rosso.

Magnussen spent a further 20 minutes in the garage; the Haas social media team describing it as an ‘extended stay’, offering no indication of why the team have put in so few laps this morning.

Ricciardo’s Renault decided to spice up the morning by parting ways with its rear wing while using DRS, causing him to spin off track and into the gravel. Miraculously he managed to get the car out without causing a second red-flag in the session.

The lunch break came and went with some teams opting for a driver change, namely Mercedes and Renault. Bottas was the first man on track, followed closely by Charles Leclerc for Ferrari. Leclerc was the first man to break the 100-lap benchmark, followed by rookie Alex Albon for Toro Rosso.

Nico Hulkenberg settled down to test his Renault for a race distance and continued to knock out lap times in the 1:20s. Hulkenberg didn’t manage to top the timesheets, however Renault seem to have found consistent timing and distance of greater value than fastest car on track. He did eventually break free of the monotony and started pushing the car just a little bit, managing a personal best of 1:20.3 which put him in 8thposition.

Pierre Gasly spun out going in to turn 12 with only an hour and a half left on the clock. Though the damage didn’t look overly disastrous, it was a sorry end to Gasly’s otherwise smooth and steady session.

Pietro Fittipaldi took to the wheel in place of Kevin Magnussen who was forced to retire from the race early due to a seat-fit issue, which could explain the frequent ‘extended stays’ K-Mag was having in the morning session. Fittipaldi managed a total of 13 laps before the end of the session.

Sadly, we heard very little from Williams today. It is thought they will be arriving with the car very early tomorrow morning, with a view to joining in the testing tomorrow lunchtime.

McLaren are continuing to play the come-back kid by coming second only to Ferrari on the timing sheet. It’s an extremely positive start for the team, but ultimately Ferrari stole the show once again, taking fastest lap for the second day in a row (a 1:18.2) along with a healthy distance on track. With 157 laps under his belt, Leclerc has taken thorough advantage of his opportunity to get used to his new car.Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Testing continues tomorrow.